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Marriage is Two People Sharing their Lives and their Money

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Money related conflicts are the most frequently cited reason for divorce. Money is the thing most couples argue about. It really is no surprise that money often divides a couple. Before a couple gets married, they have usually talked about everything except money. When they get married, they really don’t know much about each other’s views about money.

Different views of spending and saving

In a study by the American Psychological Association, 47% of respondents said they and their partner had different saving and spending habits. One partner may be an avid saver, while the other may enjoy spending on the finer things of life. The spender may feel that his or her partner is constantly nagging and cheap, while the saver may feel vulnerable to the effects of overindulging. If you are committed to your relationship, you and your partner need to have an honest conversation about your finances, spending habits, saving habits, financial goals, and anxieties about finances. Once your finances are out in the open, you can both begin working out a spending and savings plan.

Hiding Transactions from your partner

In the same study, 36% of partners in a relationship do not consult their spouse about purchases, even large purchases.  Six percent said they have secret accounts or credit cards. Hiding purchases from your partner is a form of infidelity. You need to be transparent about your finances with your spouse.

Debt needs to be repaid before real financial planning can begin

Many couples come into a marriage with financial baggage like high credit card debt or big student loans. If one partner has more debt than the other , this can become a significant issue in a marriage. Generally, debts that are brought into a marriage stay with the person that incurred them. Debts incurred after marriage are owed by both spouses.

It does not do any good to try to hide your debt from your spouse because it will eventually come out in the open. It is best to just lay all of your cards on the table , the good with the bad.

Either way, before you can really start building a nest egg together, big debts need to be paid off.  Some couples are comfortable tackling this debt together, while others prefer separate accounts to handle that debt.

Money shouldn’t be a source of power

When one partner has a paid job and the other doesn't; or when both partners would like to be working but one is unemployed; or  when one spouse earns considerably more than the other; or when one partner comes from a family that has money and the other doesn't, , the one with the most money often wants to dictate the couple's spending priorities. Money should not be used as a means to control your partner. It also shouldn’t be a measuring stick, such as “I make more than you do so I decide how we spend our money.”  Your marriage is a partnership, so each of you should share in the spending and saving decisions.

How to identify shared financial goals

Setting financial goals as a couple doesn't mean you have to give up all of your own goals. Try to find your shared vision choosing goals that make that vision a reality while also including individual goals along the way. This helps make each partner feel like an equal in the process. 

  • Goals should help achieve the vision you and your spouse have for your life together. Make your goals actionable and attainable .
  • Your strategy for reaching financial goals begins with the money you have left after covering the necessities. Together you should decide how to divvy up the remaining money between your discretionary spending needs and your goals.
  • Set up regular "meetings" to see where you stand. At each meeting, discuss the progress you've made and reassess your financial situation.

How to share the management of your money

Trust, and positive perceptions of how the other partner is doing financially, play a huge role in whether couples decide to merge finances. Most couples pool their monies together and track it with a budget.

However, where a couple is in life also plays a role in finances. Couples who marry late in life or couples who have children from a previous marriage may not be completely comfortable merging finances completely. They may decide to set up a joint account for items that are paid jointly like mortgage, utilities etc. Then, they would keep separate accounts for those items paid solely for them such as a child’s tuition or their business expenses.

Whatever method you decide to use to manage your finances, you still need to be transparent with each other about your finances. You should plan a time to sit down together every week or couple of weeks to discuss your finances, what is coming up that you need to plan for, financial goals, and issues you are having with finances

Money is a tool that can help you both do the things in life that you want to do together.  Try to take the influence of money out of your relationship. The money you have together should be planned for, managed, budget for, and spent together.

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